Monday, 31 March 2014

Second Henshaws Blog Post:
A Day in My Life

My second blog entry was posted earlier today on the Henshaws Blog, giving insight into a typical day in my life as a visually impaired person.

"I’m often asked what it’s like to live life with a visual impairment. Many people think that it must differ remarkably from a sighted person’s day-to-day life, but I actually enjoy doing the same things that you do – I just have to approach it in a slightly different way. I wanted to share with you a typical day in my life, to give you a better understanding of my daily routine…"

You can read about a day in my life by clicking here.

I have written some more blog posts over the past few weeks including entries regarding my illustrations for Insight Magazine, how I produce artwork as a visually impaired person, the arts & crafts group at Henshaws, and my Braille progress.

I look forward to them being posted in the near future
and sharing them with you!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Interview with Henshaws

I recently did an interview with Henshaws regarding the Living With Sight Loss enablement course that I attended in the summer of last year, and discussed the impact it had on my life. You can listen to it below.


Helen: Hi! I'm here with Kimberley Burrows today, who is a Henshaws service user. She's been on the Living With Sight Loss course, also Braille, Arts & Crafts and she does the Relax course as well. So hi Kimberley!

Kimberley: Hello!

Helen: We just wanted to talk a bit about the Living With Sight Loss course and how you found it. So, first of all, how did you find out about the course?

Kimberley: I found out about the course through Manchester Eye Hospital, and about Henshaws as well - as I'd never heard of Henshaws before. I was at Manchester Eye Hospital for various procedures for my squint and my mum noticed that near the main waiting area there was a Henshaws side room. So, in there I met with Maggie and told her about my condition and that I'd never really had any support before. I was 24 at the time and I'd never really had any support from Social Services, so she rang them up and they visited me not long after. She also forwarded me onto the enablement course, or the Living With Sight Loss course, which was run for 6 weeks at my local community centre.

Helen: Great! So tell us the benefits of the course, how has it made a difference to you?

Kimberley: It definitely made a big difference! It was the first time that I was able to speak with other visually impaired people and that gave me more confidence. It was also beneficial because every week we would do something different. One week we had a visit from Guide Dogs, another week from transport, another week we had a visit from local police about how they can help us, and another week - which was one of my favourites! - was learning about all of the different mobility aids and magnification aids that are available. So it was nice to try those out.

Helen: So, what did you find from there? Is that when you started using the iPad, or had you been using the iPad before that?

Kimberley: No, I'd been using the iPad before that.

Helen: So it more about the other aids that are available?

Kimberley: Yes. I never knew that you could have LCD magnification that looks like a tablet. It's very expensive but I would love to save up for one after using it. I thought it was fantastic!

Helen: Oh, wow! That good. So, would you recommend it to other people who are in the same situation as you?

Kimberley: Absolutely! You can find out all sorts of different information and meet with other visually impaired people, if you've never talked with anybody before. There's just so much information; things like if you have talking news services in your local area, which I now get every week. Also, things like books@home, so the mobile library will come to visit you to give large print and audiobooks. It just adds another dimension to your life.

Helen: Sounds great! Thank you for talking with us today!

Kimberley: Thank you very much!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Blog Contributor for Henshaws

Henshaws have recently launched an online blog, sharing the stories of those who are visually impaired, blind and / or disabled and providing helpful tips and information from staff members. It will give an insight into how Henshaws has helped the various service users' quality of life, and is directed at supporters, fellow service users and other visually impaired or disabled people who may not yet realise how Henshaws can benefit them too.

I was kindly asked to be a contributor to the blog, submitting regular posts covering a whole range of different topics - from my story of sight loss, to how the service has benefitted me and dramatically changed my life, to my hobbies including my interest in illustrating, crafting and brailling.

My first blog entry was posted yesterday and details my story of sight loss during childhood, how I found out about the Henshaws charity last year, and the service they provide for me. I have written a few more over the past month and look forward to sharing them with everyone through the Henshaws blog, and here, in the near future!

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Champagne & Chocolate Evening with Henshaws

Last night I attended a champagne and chocolate evening, organised by Playhouse Events and held at Libby's Bread and Wine in Cheshire, supporting Henshaws Society for Blind People.

Canapes and champagne were to be served first, and then I would be giving a speech about my sight loss journey and how the Henshaws charity have made a difference to my life. Then, The Naked Chocolatier team would be making an appearance with a chocolate workshop; making truffles and having us guess the mystery flavours, as well as blindfolded chocolate lolly decorating!

When Jo and I arrived, we said hello to the ladies at Playhouse Events and were then seated. The table was decorated with lots of lovely things including flowers, candles, perfume samples, Henshaws cupcakes and nibbles! We had our first glass of bubbly (everyone was given a pouch with two gems inside, and each gem would allow you to have a free drink - a lovely idea!) and then the room began to fill up with guests.

Canapes were served first, and then it was time for me to give my speech! Jo guided me to the middle of the room, and I was introduced to everyone before then speaking about my sight loss journey, how I discovered Henshaws, how they have helped to dramatically improve my quality of life over the past 7 months since I started using the service, and my aspirations for the future. I was extremely nervous as this was my first ever speech in front of a considerable amount of people, but I think it went rather well and I kindly received a large round of applause when I'd finished!

Champagne and canapes continued to go around the room, and raffle tickets were sold with some amazing prizes which included massage and facial treatments, hair and beauty products, makeovers, reflexology sessions, flower arrangements, champagne and wine gift sets, a hamper, and a chance to have a session with a personal trainer.

It was then time for the Naked Chocolatiers and their workshop! Oliver Dunn introduced his company and gave a bit of background into how it was set up and the sort of events that they do. He then had his chocolatiers introduce themselves - and the room got considerably louder and giddier - so I'm guessing the guests were enjoying the topless men on show!

The chocolatiers began to prepare their ingredients for making the truffles and needed volunteers to help them. I thought I would give it a go when more volunteers were requested, and helped to pipe out the dark chocolate truffles. It was nice to meet the chocolatiers and have a chat with them whilst they helped me with the piping bag, and I joked that I must be the only girl in the room not ogling them!

When the truffles had set, the naked chocolatiers then went around the room handing out the mystery flavours for us to guess. I thought I was going to be quite good at this experiment, as my taste sense is much better than my sight and hearing combined, but I didn't get either correct! Admittedly, I've never had chilli chocolate or Jägermeister before, so I didn't recognise the flavours too well.

It was then time for blindfolded chocolate lolly decorating! The chocolatiers prepared the lollies and icing, and everyone had to put a blindfold on in order to write their name on their assigned lolly to demonstrate how hard it is to do something when you have impaired vision.

Obviously I didn't need to be blindfolded for the task, and achieved the feat of making even more of a mess than anybody that actually was! It was lots of fun though. I've never had the opportunity to decorate with chocolate before, so this was a new and exciting experience!

The chocolatiers' decorating versus mine. I don't think they'll be hiring me any time soon!

When everyone in the room had had a go of blindfolded decorating and the chocolate icing had set, the winner of the best lolly was announced and awarded a YSL makeover. Very well done to Linda!

At the end of the evening, the winning raffle tickets were drawn and the prizes were handed out. Before leaving, some of the guests approached me and congratulated me on my speech - with one lady saying that she absolutely loved my voice (something I've never heard before!) and another lady who said that she had no idea how I coped with daily tasks, especially after she'd had a go of the blindfolded decorating experiment and saw just how difficult it can be.

I had my photo taken with Oliver, and then it was then time to say our goodbyes to everyone before journeying home.

I want to say a massive thank you to Playhouse Events for such a wonderful evening, the Naked Chocolatier team for the yummy truffles, chocolate lollies and entertainment, Barefoot Wines for the bubbly throughout the evening and to Henshaws for inviting me along to the event. Thank you all so much!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Second Illustration in
RNIB's Insight Magazine

 Here is my second illustration in the RNIB's Insight Magazine.

I'm quite disappointed, I have to admit. I spend a month at a time working on my illustrations - from planning how I want it to look, to choosing the colour scheme - and then spend 20 minutes at a time, for an hour a day, in the knowledge that it will be completed by the end of the month to then e-mail off to the team.

My illustration has taken up only a quarter of the page, with an advertisement of a Brailler filling half. I didn't notice my illustration at first when I was scrolling through the PDF version for the first few times (must be something wrong with my eyes!) so I increased my computer's magnification. When I finally found my illustration, I suddenly felt deflated and like my whole month's effort was for nothing. I also felt like a hinderance to their advertisement.

The young columnist doesn't get any ads on her page, so I'm not sure why I do - though the last issue's ad wasn't as noticeable as this one. It's so difficult to illustrate as a severely visually impaired person, as I can't see my illustrations in their entirety, having only 10% vision in one eye. Whereas if you were to write an article, there are so many tools to help you; voicing each key you type and reciting back what you've written on screen. There are barely any tools to help with drawing, aside from lighting, but I struggle on because I find it satisfying and fulfilling to complete something that is an obstacle for me.

I'm not the best person at Photoshop but I managed to come up with an alternative version without an ad to obstruct the page.

I'm heartbroken and know my mum will feel the same way when she sees the final result, as she knows how much time and effort I put into my drawings. I'm thinking of sending her this version and pretending it's the real thing, to avoid witnessing her disappointment too.

I hope that the Insight magazine team will take my feedback on board, and hopefully give me a bit more space in the next issue to present my illustrations properly.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Braille Progress: Book 7!

Following on from my previous post, I thought I would blog an update regarding my Braille progress!

The last time I blogged about my Braille progress I had just begun book 4. Since then, I have been through books 5 and 6, learning lots of different dot combinations; dot 456 combinations, dot 45 combinations, dot 5 combinations, dot 46 combinations, dot 56 combinations and dot 6 combinations.

In book 7, I'll be learning shortforms and punctuation:


  • Deceive / Deceives / Deceived / Deceiving
  • Receive / Receives / Received / Receiving / Receiver
  • Conceive / Conceives / Conceived / Conceiving
  • Perceive / Perceives / Perceived / Perceiving
  • Declare / Declares / Declared / Declaring
  • Rejoice / Rejoices / Rejoiced / Rejoicing
  • Myself / Yourself / Himself / Herself 
  • Itself / Oneself / Thyself
  • Ourselves / Yourselves / Themselves


  • Exclamation Mark
  • Colon
  • Semicolon
  • Speech Marks
  • Brackets
  • Hypen
  • Dash
  • Ellipses
  • Oblique Stroke / Slash
  • Accent Sign
  • Letter Sign
  • Italic Sign
  • Double Italic Sign

Saturday, 15 March 2014

My First Brailler!

I purchased my first Brailler on Thursday and it arrived today!

I've been learning Braille through the Fingerprint course books at Henshaws Society for Blind People, since August 2013, and have wanted to have my own Brailler ever since learning how to use one at the Manchester centre 7 months ago.

My mum recently discovered an eBay listing featuring a lovely turquoise Brailler, with the money from the auction going to the 4SIGHT charity in Sussex. I didn't think I was going to be able to win as I had my cane training that day, which overlapped with the item's ending time - but my mum was sneaky and had put a bid on it for me without my knowledge. When I came back home from my mobility training, I checked the eBay listing to see who had won - and it was me!

I'm thrilled to bits with my Brailler, it matches my bedroom perfectly (which is colour co-ordinated in pink and turquoise) and the money has gone to a good cause. It was also sent with a dust cover and a large pack of cartridge paper. I've already been Brailling lots of different articles today; including the basic alphabet and short forms, a passage from one of the Fingerprint course books I'm currently studying and even a shopping list for my mum!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Tattoo Designs for my Brother

Over the past 8 months I've been working on a full sleeve for my brother's left arm, which is now at the half-way mark of completion. He wanted me to design pieces that will eventually build up to a complete sleeve, working with him to create designs that mean something special to him - with the added specialness of me drafting and sketching them, rather than a tattoo artist.

Here are the tattoos I've designed so far:

Tree Design with Two Owls

Located at the top of the sleeve is the fifth piece I designed for my brother; an old tree featuring two owls sitting on a branch, tattooed in early March 2014 in Manchester. One of my brother's favourite animals are owls, especially the symbolism behind them, and chose them to represent wisdom, intelligence, wealth, protection and transition. The tree depicts very similar themes of wisdom, as well as strength, growth and eternal life. 

Lower Arm Braille Design

Further down the sleeve on the lower arm is the third tattoo I designed for my brother. At the top is the word 'seven' in Braille, as I'm severely visually impaired and am currently completing my Braille course at Henshaws Society for Blind People, so my brother wanted to honour this in his sleeve. Below is a number 7 design as if it were on the back of a football shirt, as my brother is a big football fan.

Two Ravens Design

Lower down is the fourth tattoo I designed for my brother, located on his lower arm underneath the Braille tattoo. It features two mirrored ravens symbolising mystery, intelligence, power of thought and intuition. Underneath is the word 'seven' in Greek. Tattooed in Manchester in late February 2014.

Intricate Wrist Piece

This is the second tattoo I designed for my brother, banded around his left wrist to finish off the sleeve. He wanted an intricate pattern to match that of the first tattoo I designed for him (see below), with the word 'seven' woven inside the pattern - as seen in the left image - his favourite number and part of his birthdate. Tattooed in Manchester in early 2014.

Heptagon Chest Piece

This is the first tattoo I designed for my brother, located on the left-hand side of his upper chest. His favourite number is seven, so he wanted a heptagon with 7 sides and an intricate pattern inside. He got this piece tattooed in Thailand after he graduated from the University of Lancashire, in the summer of 2013.

I've had lots of fun designing these pieces so far. As a keen artist, it's another way of having a portfolio in some aspects! I'm deeply honoured that my brother wanted me to have control over a full sleeve, which will feature a big portion of his tattoos in total, and to have a tribute to me in that way.

I've just completed another tattoo of a praying angel, which is being inked tomorrow. I shall update the post when the design is incorporated into the sleeve!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Visit to the Police and Crime Commissioner Office in Swinton

Yesterday afternoon, I attended a meeting with the engagement team at the office of Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, located in Swinton, with my RNIB regional campaigns officer - to discuss hate-crime against visually impaired and blind people in the North West.

Using my own experiences of being a victim of hate-crime, I gave a presentation illustrating my incident and the huge impact it had on my life; diminishing my confidence and independence. I'd conducted a survey at Henshaws Society for Blind People at the Manchester centre in December, to gather evidence on this issue and received lots of feedback from the service users, including their individual cases of being a victim of crime and how they found the reporting process.

After going into detail about some of the individual cases - such as someone having their cane stolen, another being badly beaten because his cane was a visible clue that he was more vulnerable, a guide dog user having to deal with someone repeatedly throwing nails in his driveway which could damage his dog's paws, and another respondent reporting that he had his home broken into as the young residents of his area knew he was elderly and blind - I proposed how the team could help with the issue.

My propositions included awareness training within the police force, which could include simulation, to gain experience and insight into what it's like to be a visually impaired person out and about in the community. Training could include how to support a VI / blind victim. Talks and demonstrations about how to keep safe would also be beneficial, especially at community centres, to highlight the vulnerability of those who are sight- impaired in the local area, and a meeting and demonstration at Henshaws would also be most welcome, giving support and advice to the service users. They could look into the crime-reporting process and whether it's accessible enough, including large print and / or braille formats for information and forms.

The engagement team were really lovely and listened to everything I had to say. They were very supportive and enthusiastic to get involved - and I think I've definitely given them something to think about! Hopefully I will hear from them very soon and perhaps be able to get involved with any events or meetings in the near future.

A big thank you to Uzma, Gaynor, Jenna, Hannah and Rick for giving me their time yesterday, for arranging the meeting and for agreeing to see me!

I received some nice tweets from the PCC twitter account, which you can read below:

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Article with Quays News

In mid-February, I was invited by Henshaws to be interviewed by a journalist from Quays News. The article was posted online today at the Quays News website under the 'features' section:

I transformed my life, despite suffering from blindness

by Jack Gordon-Brown

For most of us, the thought of not being able to see simply doesn’t register in our thoughts. It is perhaps the most important of our senses, allowing us to see everything from our own perspective, crucial to understanding the world we live in. Sight intertwines with the other primary senses; touch, taste, hearing and smell, to enable us to do the everyday things in life without a degree of bother.

For some people, life is not as easy. Kimberley Burrows has been severely visually impaired for the whole of her life. Kimberley was born with congenital cataracts, after they formed in her mother’s womb. Kimberley is completely blind in one eye, and has just 10% sight in the other. According to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) definition, a cataract is ‘a clouding of the normally clear and transparent lens inside the eye. It can cause blurry or hazy vision and be a bit like trying to look through frosted glass’. If the cataracts are formed in the womb it is called congenital, and it can affect both eyes.

The condition Kimberley suffers from has impacted greatly on her life, making simple, unassuming tasks challenging, and her mum naturally has to help her with things such as shopping and washing, caring for her daughter on a permanent basis.

Being visually impaired has also significantly dented Kimberley’s confidence and anxiety levels. She readily admits that 12 months ago this interview would not have taken place. During our discussion it is hard to believe Kimberley’s assertion, given her confidence in answering a range of questions, and her general candidness when talking about the demanding troubles she has overcome.

This is a direct result of her now regular attendance at the Manchester branch of Henshaws, an organisation dedicated to helping people with sight loss and other disabilities to build their skill set and become more independent. Henshaws was first established in 1837 after local businessman Thomas Henshaw left £20,000 in his will to establish an ‘Asylum for the indigent blind’, making it Manchester’s oldest charity. Henshaws has had a massive impact in the area, helping hundreds of families each year, from young children through to adults without sight.

Kimberley’s positivity is true testament to the energy she has put in at Henshaws, especially when you consider that she has only been with the society since August of last year. Now 25 years old and with aspirations of taking an art foundation course at the Royal National College for the Blind, Kimberley’s future prospects look progressively bright. But education hasn’t always been as straightforward, especially in the early years.

"I went to two mainstream schools, the Primary school and the High school, and there wasn’t a lot of support available. There probably is nowadays, but back then, which is probably going back 20 years ago,  there wasn’t a lot of support. Things like the blackboard and the whiteboard; I was very blessed to have really nice friends who would read it out to me."

Kimberley is keen to stress how her teachers and especially her friends were supportive of her at school, but it was art that gave her real joy, "I found an outlet with art really, I enjoyed art and found I could do it independently, especially if it’s not still life and it’s coming from inside my head and my imagination."

However, despite her ability to make friends at school, Kimberley soon found socialising particularly difficult once she had left at the age of 16. She drifted apart from friends from both Primary school and then High school, with her best friend from the latter moving South.

Despite having incredibly supportive parents, Kimberley would often feel isolated, "I would always go out with my Mum and my Dad and if they weren’t free then I couldn’t go out anywhere. So I didn’t go out often at all, I had lots of panic attacks and was very anxious and I was very self-conscious about my visual impairment."

Kimberley freely admits that her visual impairment affected her confidence, causing her to be more ‘shy and reserved around others’, a period of time she describes as ‘very stressful’. Thankfully she was able to turn to Henshaws, although she only found out about the charity through pure chance.

"This time last year I was house-bound, I wasn’t going out anywhere since I left high school, and then when I was at Manchester Eye Hospital my mum pointed out a Henshaws side room. I’d never heard about Henshaws before, so I thought we’d pop in and see what support would be available, especially since I wasn’t really getting out a lot apart from to appointments. They forwarded me onto an enablement course that was six weeks long, and that gave me a little bit of confidence to start talking with other visually impaired people and towards the end of the six weeks I was coming out of my shell a bit more. I definitely wanted to come to the Henshaws centre."

From this point onwards, Kimberley has flourished at the centre, taking on a number of different activities with an expansive range of people of all different ages, who are also visually impaired. Attending Henshaws has led to Kimberley studying braille, a form of written language for blind people, in which characters are represented by patterns of raised dots that are felt with the fingertips. Such is the success she has had; Kimberley now counts it as one of her hobbies.

"It’s like texting, you are shortening words because if you had uncontracted braille, say if you wanted to read Harry Potter and the seven books, it would span on to about 15-20 books because it’s quite a thick medium. You just gently touch it and it forms words and I find it really intriguing. I’ve been learning since the end of August 2013. I’m on book 6 now, so I’m half way through. - but you just go at your own pace. There’s someone in the braille class who’s been going 10 years and is only on book 3, so it just depends really, but I am racing through because I am really enjoying it."

Kimberley hopes that in the future she will be able to read a full book of braille, an extraordinary feat. For now, she is content to listen to audiobooks on her iPad, a device which she praises with a markedly enthusiastic tone.

"The iPad has transformed my life. I’ve had it for nearly two years now, and it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It allows me to check my e-mails, and partake in social networking. I use Facebook to keep in touch with my family and friends, and Twitter to talk to people I wouldn’t usually have contact with - so it’s wonderful. The accessibility on it is amazing, you have things like zoom, voiceover, and you can change the colour contrast. You’ve got speech and you’ve got Siri as well - so you can tell it what to search for and things like that, and it’s just an amazing piece of technology."

Despite her rapid progression at Henshaws that has opened up a previously unfamiliar world to Kimberley, it is her illustrating ability that really captures the imagination. Kimberley has had an obvious penchant for art from an early age, something reflected by her A* in the subject at GCSE level, even if she will never fully be able to see her own drawings.

Kimberley’s fan pieces of Paddington Bear led to a meeting with the author of the books, Michael Bond, after his daughter had spotted her drawings on the Paddington Bear Facebook page. Kimberley describes Bond as her idol, and she was able to travel down to London just before the Olympics to meet him, whilst one of her drawings remains in his home to this day.

This is not the only distinct recognition Kimberley has attained from her drawings. She was recently featured in the Salford Advertiser and the Manchester Evening News with a collection of her drawings. What is striking about each picture is the unerring intricacy involved, and it takes Kimberley around a month to complete a picture, highlighting just how much she immerses herself in each one of her works of art. It is certainly worth the effort, as Kimberley continues to express herself in ways that most could only dream of doing.

"In December, I entered a competition with the RNIB. I won their competition for the Young Illustrator of 2014, so for the next 12 months I will be producing an illustration for their Insight Magazine - so that is my main hobby. It’s very hard, it takes me about a month to complete a piece, but I am very determined and it is what I want to do and I enjoy it very much."

There are undoubtedly still hurdles for Kimberley to overcome. Employment is an obvious issue. Statistics show that two thirds of blind people are unemployed, whilst 90% of employers wouldn’t even consider blind people employable. Kimberley is keen to complete her guide dog training, but she knows all too well the wait she must have to endure. A friend of hers has been on the waiting list for three years, whereas she has been on for a mere five months.

Yet it is impossible not to be inspired by Kimberley and her utter devotion to master such a difficult subject, as she targets the Royal National College for the Blind, with an art foundation course her most favoured option. From then on Kimberley hopes to be a children’s illustrator, and with the deserved acclaim she has received so far for her drawings, it is difficult to imagine anyone turning her creative talents away.

You can view my article on Quay News by clicking on the thumbnail below:

Monday, 10 March 2014

Artwork Donation to
the RNIB Pears Centre

The RNIB Pears Centre got in touch with me through Insight Magazine, after reading my article on Daily Mail Online and seeing my interview with Granada Reports, asking for me to donate a piece of work to their specialist learning centre in Coventry.

I thought I would donate my GCSE carousel composition from 2005, which has previously been displayed in my high school for a number of years as well as in Sale Town Hall, so it can be displayed once again.

It needed a bit of restoring though after being displayed quite a lot throughout the years! When I received it back from my high school a year and a half ago, the metal decorations and sequins were hanging off or weren't there at all, the paintwork was chipped, the glitter was dull, and so on - so I've spent the past week returning it to the condition it originally in.

It's now completely restored and packaged up to be collected by a courier tomorrow, to then be sent to the centre in Coventry. It will be displayed in a frame alongside a small biography of me as well as some information about the piece which I was asked to write. You can read them both below:


Kimberley Burrows was born with congenital cataracts and has been severely visually impaired all of her life, now with only 10% vision in one eye. Kimberley visited Great Ormond Street Hospital in London throughout her childhood, and would draw with the colouring pencils or crayons that were on display in the waiting rooms, or use the various paints and crafts in the playroom before having her operations. Her favourite subject was always art during primary school and high school, and she took it for her GCSE's - receiving an A*.

Kimberley began illustrating in 2011, and produced some drawings of Paddington Bear which she shared online with a fan page. This eventually led to her meeting the creator, Michael Bond OBE, at his home in London in 2012 and gifted him some of her Paddington drawings, which he now displays in his study.

She is now the RNIB's Young Illustrator of the Year for 2014, and will be producing a piece of artwork for each monthly issue. Kimberley recently received press attention for winning the award, and featured in her local newspapers - the Salford Advertiser and the Manchester Evening News, on the Daily Mail Online website, as well as appearing on ITV News and Granada Reports.

Henshaws Society for Blind People have asked Kimberley to produce a composition to be displayed in John Lewis at the Trafford Centre, to celebrate their 150th birthday in 2014, which she is now working on.

The Project

This composition was one of four that Kimberley produced for her GCSE coursework, from 2004 - 2005, at Flixton Girls' High School in Urmston, Manchester. It is based on a traveller art theme and features painted flowers seen on narrowboats, along with a carousel from a traveling circus and details all of its intricacies.

The composition uses a variety of mediums including watercolours, acrylic paints, coloured pencils, stained glass paints and pastels. After the piece was completed, it was displayed in Sale Town Hall before being displayed in her high school for many years. Kimberley has now donated it to the RNIB Pears centre to be displayed once again. Kimberley was awarded an A* in her GCSE's.

I've asked for a photo to be taken of the displayed artwork when it's framed alongside my biography, so I'll be able to share it here when it's up.

Edit: You can now see a photo of my artwork displayed at the RNIB Pears Centre here!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Spirit of Salford

I was recently contacted by the Spirit of Salford campaign, after posting my photo on their Facebook page. I wasn't originally going to post my photo as I didn't think I was worthy enough to be part of the campaign, but my mum convinced me otherwise!

They tried to contact me after seeing my interview on Granada Reports and ITV News, and even the Mayor of Salford had read about me in the Salford Advertiser and Manchester Evening News, but unfortunately they had trouble getting my details from the RNIB.

We're now finally in touch, and an article was posted about me on the Spirit of Salford website today!

Young Illustrator

Blind Kimberley Burrows has shown the Spirit of Salford by being named the Young Illustrator of the Year. The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) recognised the brave 25-year-old from Irlam because of her determination and skill.

Kimberley is pursuing a career in illustration despite being completely blind in one eye and only being able to focus for a few minutes in the other. Some of her charming cartoon-style pieces can take months to complete - she can only work for 20 minutes at a time because of the strain on her eye.

Kimberley's dream of turning her passion into a career may soon be realised - she has already been commissioned to create a special drawing of Paddington Bear for its creator Michael Bond.

She is also studying Braille, as well as arts and crafts at Henshaws Society for Bind People.

Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart said: "Kimberley is an inspirational young woman who creates beautiful illustrations which are being recognised nationally. We're extremely proud of her. She sums up everything about the Spirit of Salford - passionate, determined and creative. I sincerely hope she gets to follow her dream and study fine art at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford."

Kimberley said: "I'm extremely pleased to become the Young Illustrator of the Year and win this prized national award. As a Salfordian born and bred here, I'm very proud to represent my home city. People have been so kind and supportive to me - when the City Mayor 'tweeted' his congratulations to me the other day, I was made up. It made my week!

I now can't wait for the Spirit of Salford Weekender at the end of May - it sounds really exciting."

You can read my story on the Spirit of Salford website by clicking here.

As mentioned in the article above, I've had a few lovely tweets from the Mayor of Salford, Ian Stewart!  Here are his messages:

I'm extremely honoured that the Mayor of Salford has tweeted me! His support and kind words mean the world to me, and I can't wait to hopefully meet him at the weekend festival in May!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Media Training Workshop at Oasis Academy in MediaCity UK

Last night I attended a three hour media training session at the Oasis Academy in MediaCity UK, Salford. I was invited to the workshop by Henshaws staff, including Debbie Cowley from Marketing & Research, Louisa Walmsley from Fundraising and Andrew Rose, a member of the board of Trustees for Henshaws. The workshop was run by Chris Brophy, who co-founded and managed Salford City Radio and now runs his own station - Fusion Radio - as well as coordinating media workshops, specialising in radio and TV presenting.

We began by introducing ourselves to the wider group, which included two other people who also wanted to gain TV and radio presenting skills, and discussed how we would benefit from the evening's workshop. Chris then invited us to repeat the process, this time in front of a green screen with lighting and a camera! Our introductions were filmed and then played back to the group, so that we could experience what we would look like on the television and analyse which aspects of our presentations could be improved.

I must admit that I hadn't done any public speaking for 8 years before the session, so I was incredibly nervous - but I remembered to use regular hand movements, a change in pitch as I went through sentences and an even pace throughout my introduction. I kindly received applause at the end and was overwhelmed by everyone's kind feedback. This first exercise put me at ease for the rest of the evening and helped me to feel more confident with the other activities.

Chris went through some of the techniques used for television presenting, such as how to position the body, how to talk and engage the audience, how to use body language including hand movement and eye contact, and how to emphasise certain words in a script for added effect.

We then went back to filming after learning some of these new skills, and our performances vastly improved the second time. We were given a mock competition to read from an auto cue, though Chris kindly handed me the iPad with the script in large print with inverted colours, so that I was able to partake in the activity as well. I really had fun with the competition advertisement, and made it sound as vibrant and spirited as possible - as if it were to feature in an X Factor ad break! - and again, received such positive feedback from everyone.

After a tea break, we then moved onto the final venture of the workshop - radio presenting and interviewing! Chris introduced us to the equipment, which included a soundboard for mixing and fading sound bytes, jingles, advertisements and music, showed us the microphones, and explained briefly about a computer program called Myriad which controls the tracks being played, timing, and pre-programmed playlists. As there wasn't enough time for everyone to try out radio presenting, myself and Debbie were chosen to demonstrate to the group. Debbie was absolutely fantastic at presenting and enabled me to feel more confident and relaxed when answering the questions. We talked about my eye conditions, how I found out about Henshaws, how the service has benefitted me since I started using it last year, how I got into drawing and what advice I would have for other visually impaired or blind people. The interview was recorded and may be used in the near future.

I had an absolutely wonderful time and was so pleased with all of the feedback for my presenting performances and interview towards the end of the workshop. Everyone did a great job and I think we've definitely walked away feeling more inspired to do more media work in the future. I have two events lined up towards the end of the month with Henshaws - a Champagne & Chocolate evening and a Fashion Fundraiser - where I'll be giving speeches about my experiences with the charity and the service they have provided me. I was originally very nervous to start with, as I hadn't done any public speaking in such a long time, but last night's workshop really gave me the confirmation to do it and have fun at the same time!

A big thank you to Chris for the workshop and his wonderful comments both in the session and on Twitter, to Henshaws for inviting me along and helping me to vastly improve my confidence, and to everyone else in the group for making it such a lovely evening!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Professional Photographs
with Henshaws

On Friday, a photographer came to the Henshaws centre in Old Trafford to take professional photos of me for the Vision newsletter, online blog and other promotional material. Gwen was extremely lovely, and recently forwarded the photos onto Henshaws, who then kindly put them onto a CD for me to take home and share with my family. I thought I would share the photos on here for you all to have a look at as well!

A big thank you to Gwen, Helen and Henshaws for organising the photo session and for all of their lovely comments and support throughout! I'm extremely pleased with the photographs and can't wait for the Vision newsletter to come out! I will share it here as soon as it is released.